Attenborough and His Animals – Wilton’s Music Hall, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Creators: Jess Clough-Macrae and Jonathan Tilley

Following a second successful Edinburgh Fringe season, Clownfish Theatre bring their delightful production of Attenborough and His Animals to Wilton’s Music Hall for a week of unmissable family fun.

The production uses an entertaining blend of clowning and physical theatre to deliver an evening of wildlife magic, admirably close to Attenborough’s actual work, to the stage. Operating under the pretence that the real David Attenborough, along with an assortment of live creatures, has failed to turn up for the ‘actual’ show, the piece is slightly slow to find its feet at first. Establishing context as a ‘Blue Planet meets The Play That Goes Wrong’ of sorts, there is a frantic slapstick feel which appeases the younger audience, but feels like the company are making an excuse to display their actual talents. Once the real ‘documentary’ begins, the work of performer/creators Jess Clough-Macrae and Jonathan Tilley is exquisite.

Tilley delivers narration strikingly similar to Attenborough himself, clearly having studied his style in depth, whilst Clough-Macrae presents most of the animal work, assisted by her partner where necessary. Clough-Macrae has an impressive command of her body, becoming each creature with such detail and nuance, and her vocal mimicking of bird calls is equally fine tuned. The pair works fluidly as a team and, with barely any props at all, presents a masterclass in physical performance and world-building.

Music is used thoughtfully throughout the show; sometimes for comic effect, but mostly to emulate the peaceful, mesmerising atmosphere recognisable from the documentaries the show mimics. This tone may not satisfy every viewer, however, in the same way that an Attenborough documentary is suitable for children, but not specifically designed for them. With a 70 minute running time and not a lot of active interaction, the intelligent and detailed work of the company may not be enough to keep all young people entirely engaged.

That being said, both Tilley and Clough-Macrae are highly energetic performers and certainly know how to work an audience. For those expecting heart-warming fun, laugh-out-loud imagery and impressive theatrical work, Attenborough & His Animals completely delivers. It even culminates with a moving environmental message that the man himself would be proud of.

Attenborough and His Animals is a joyful celebration of a national treasure and a feel-good reminder of the beautiful world we live in. If you’re looking for a reason to smile this week, this is it.

 Runs until 3 September 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Heartwarming fun

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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